OKEMOS — In the last several years, statistics from Michigan Traffic Crash Facts show Meridian Township in Ingham County has seen nearly double the number of car-deer accidents than the next highest number of accidents by township.
Meridian Township implemented a deer management program that began in 2011, according to their website, and officials have seen a decrease in the number of accidents.
Kelsey Dillon, a park naturalist for the Meridian Township Parks and Recreation Department, says they keep records of car accidents involving deer because of their deer management program.
“We actually monitor car accident reports very closely and we work with our police department to … get that information, and over the last … seven years we are higher than other townships, but our trend has been downward,” says Dillon.
Jennifer Pluta, the store manager of Rogers & Hollands Jewelers in the Meridian Mall, says she doesn’t often hear about car-deer accidents or see many dead animals on the road. Pluta does say, “I’ve seen deer down Okemos Road, I’ve had to stop.”
Meridian Township has nearly 30 parks and protected pieces of land. Dillon says she believes these roughly 1,600 acres play a part in higher population of White-tail Deer in the township.
Dillon says, “we know it is a little higher (the deer population) and we believe that might be due mostly to our large amount of protected green space in our township … and there is an abundance of natural resources that we protect in those areas that support very healthy deer herds.”
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Chad Fedewa says the deer in Meridian Township have some advantages due to the suburban environment of the area.
“There’s not a lot of pressure on deer from a population standpoint. There is not a lot of hunting pressure … basically the only other means by which deer typically die in that area are from getting hit by a vehicle,” says Fedewa.
Fedewa also says, “deer are more concentrated in those suburban settings, we see that all over the state where … it is not hunted regularly … deer numbers will become artificially high, because there is little mortality in the deer herd.”
Pluta says the township is “urban enough that I am always surprised when I see deer on Okemos Road … crossing into apartment complexes.”
The deer management program in Meridian Township allows residents, with special permission, to hunt township owned land in order to reduce the population of deer. Dillon says this is helping but they face challenges with deer that are living on private property.
“The deer are so dense in these areas that they are … living and breeding almost in people’s backyards … which makes management a tricky issue because we can only manage on our township-owned properties,” says Dillon.
Fedewa says the DNR is working on deer population management in Meridian township to help combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Fedewa says, “through hunting and through … specifically targeting animals… where we have had … positive cases of Chronic Wasting Disease … we have had sharpshooters in Meridian Township removing deer the last couple of years.”